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Traveling with Asthma

Whether you pack a suitcase every week or once a year, you probably know that traveling takes a little extra preparation when you have asthma. Traveling can expose you to pollen, cigarette smoke, mold, and other asthma and allergy triggers. Luggage, with medications inside, can get lost. And away from home, it’s not easy to find medical help in a hurry. Play it safe by following these suggestions.

Plan before you go

Avoid asthma triggers by planning ahead. Try to go on vacation at a time of year when pollen counts are low, and choose a destination with little smog. Reserve a nonsmoking, mold-free hotel room. If scented candles, aerosol sprays, or pet dander trigger your symptoms, tell friends or relatives before you visit so that they can make their home more asthma-friendly. To cope with food allergies, order a special meal for your flight or take snacks along.

You certainly don’t want to need medical help while you’re away, but it’s smart to be prepared. Get the names and phone numbers of allergy and asthma specialists in the area you are visiting. Your health care provider or the state medical society can make recommendations.

In addition, if you don't speak the language of your destination, consider carrying a letter in the local language that explains your condition. When traveling outside the country, consider contacting the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers for additional support.

Finally, when traveling out-of-state or out of the country, check with your health insurance company before you leave so you have a sense of the extent and limitations of your coverage. Be certain to carry an extra copy of your health insurance card.

Pack with care

  • Keep controller and rescue medications with you in your purse or carry-on bag, not in checked luggage. Pack more than you think you’ll need, since travel can be unpredictable.

  • Take along your health insurance card, your provider’s phone number, and a list of your medications, including dosages and prescription refill numbers (these are listed on the bottle).

  • Don’t forget your peak-flow meter.

  • Pack an allergy-proof pillowcase and mattress cover to keep dust mites at bay.

  • If you or your child regularly uses a nebulizer to deliver rescue medication, such as albuterol, bring along a portable, battery-operated version if you will not have access to electricity. 

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet if you sometimes have acute asthma or allergy attacks.

Travel smart

Before hitting the highway, open the windows and run the car’s air conditioner or heater for several minutes to blast out dust mites and mold. On the road, keep the windows closed and air conditioner on to keep out pollen and smog. If you’re flying, drink plenty of fluids to counteract the airplane’s dry air.

Once you’ve arrived, pace yourself and stay rested. Allow for time to take your medication properly. And remember that children can get excited by new places and may ignore their asthma. Be sure that an adult familiar with your child’s symptoms is always nearby.

Don’t let asthma keep you at home. With a little extra care, your travels will be smooth sailing.